Friday, August 28, 2015

The Big News: Pregnancy Q&A

The big news around our house this summer is that M knocked me up (respectfully, lovingly), and come January 2016, our family band is getting a new tambourine player. I'm now halfway through my very first gold-plated pregnancy, which means that I have just enough experience being pregnant to write a universally useful FAQ (Ed.: FAQ may not be universally useful). Feel free to leave your own questions in the comments, and I will answer them!

Q: How did this happen?

A: Well, when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, they do a special hug and then they invest heavily in all sorts of quickly-outgrown plastic baby paraphernalia.

Q: Seriously, though.

A: Okay, seriously, the way it happened was roughly 1,000 hours of conversation, some very steamy and fun sex, and then a panic attack when it actually worked. I had been told for the past five years that making a baby was probably going to be a complicated and lengthy procedure for us, due to only having one ovary, and we were both gearing up for months of carefully-timed marital fun. But, because we live in a hilarious universe, it only took a month. To be honest, it's still sort of sinking in.

Q: What is morning sickness really like?

A: Imagine a hangover mixed with PMS. The hangover part is the constant fatigue, nausea, and oopsy-doodle barfing and dry-heaving that you may find yourself doing in inopportune times and places (example: I once threw up on a mini-golf course); the PMS is the mood swings, breast tenderness, and heightened sense of smell that will allow you to sense tuna salad from three counties over. While I've heard horror stories about women vomiting every single day of their pregnancy, or puking so hard they cracked teeth, my own case was fairly tame—and, from what I've read, fairly typical. I felt off-and-on nauseous for about six weeks, but it peaked over ten days, which was spent mostly on the couch. (I watched all of Happy Endings. ♥ u, Brad and Jane.)

Q: Any weird food cravings?

A: I developed a complete aversion to meat and vegetables—which, as someone who ate a Paleo diet for the three years leading up to the pregnancy, was a bit of a hard reset on my system. Instead, I ate tortellini with pesto for ten days straight, pausing only for ice water with lemon and peanut butter on wild-rice toast. Gird your loins for lots of carbohydrates, is what I'm saying. I'm pretty much back to normal now, save for a pizza fanaticism that continues unabated.

Q: How is it getting all fat and stuff?

A: Honestly, this is a totally different type of shape. My belly is hard and smooth right now, and I can still see remnants of my obliques. I really like pressing down on my stomach and feeling my uterus spring back against my fingertips, and I've even sort of enjoyed the process of outgrowing all my pants. As this progresses, I'll likely get more swollen and rounder, but I am feeling shockingly, surprisingly, gratifyingly body-positive right now.

Q: Can I touch your belly?

A: Yeah! I'm into it. Unless you're a stranger. But everyone should ask first.

Q: Can you feel the baby kick?

A: Yes! I think so? Or it might be gas? But I'm pretty sure this little critter is doing its aquafit classes in my too-small pool, and I'm starting to feel the bumps.

Q: Maternity fashion—discuss.

A: IT IS A WASTELAND. I insisted on wearing civilian clothes (I'm refusing to call them "skinny clothes" or "normal clothes" or whatever, because who even has time to feel bad about being big and different when you're growing a life inside yourself, am I right?) until I was nineteen weeks pregnant—nearly four and a half months, or halfway to the big finish—because the maternity clothes I saw at Value Village and online were an enormous frumpfest. You know that "office-appropriate" poly blend that Reitmans and Smart Set buys in bulk? Maternity clothes are made pretty much exclusively out of that. SO TERRIBLE. And, I am all for body-con fashion, but maternity tops all seem to be cut in a peculiar way that both emphasizes the bump and also embiggens it. I swear I put on an H&M Mama tunic and looked a month further along, easily.

Q: Do you know what you're having?

A: We are currently hoping for a baby, although I also would be interested in the National Enquirer money if Bat Boy somehow showed up.

Q: Oh, ha! I mean, are you having a boy or a girl?

A: Yes.

Q: Hey, wait a minute...

A: I'm of the opinion (emphasis on opinion; YMMV) that boy-babies and girl-babies are pretty much the same thing, really. I know it sounds sort of dumb, but hear me out: you wouldn't expect a boy to start walking at a year and a girl to start at fifteen months, would you? Or for a girl to sleep through the night any earlier than a boy? Would you read them wildly different board books, or feed them different flavours of pureed squashes? I love baby clothes and baby toys as much as the next Pinterest-obsessed gal, but I also love the idea that our kid will have the option to play with dolls and trucks, with frogs and Easy-Bake Ovens, with Spiderman and Supergirl, pretty much from the get-go. Not to mention that the first year or so is basically are-they-eating, are-they-sleeping, are-they-breathing, wash rinse repeat. No doubt we'll get clothes, toys, and supplies (and, if it's a girl, those weird headband garters) that spell out exactly what sex the baby is soon enough. This little reprieve, before "the baby" becomes "grandma's little princess" or "daddy's little fireman," is lovely.

Q: Are you going to have a home birth?

A: No way. I'm heading to Mount Sinai with a midwife in tow. Labouring at home, or at the Toronto Birth Centre, meant that there were going to be very few on-site pain relief options—laughing gas and TENS, basically—and if anything went weird, it would require a trip to Mount Sinai in January weather. Besides, we rent, and we didn't want to ruin someone else's floors.

Q: Hospital, birth, eh? You're going to be drugged to the gills! I read this study—

A: Let me stop you right there. While I'm planning on trying to have an unmedicated, quote-unquote "natural" birth, I'm not an idiot. Medical procedures—and in the twenty-first century, birth is, like or not, a medical procedure—often have a way of throwing wrenches into the mix. (For example, when I had an ovarian cyst surgically removed five years ago, the damn thing burst, making that procedure twice as long as originally planned, and filling my abdominal cavity with goo. Not predicted! Unexpected! Relatively dangerous!) I know that birth plans aren't written in stone, and that things arise during late-term pregnancy and labour. From a prolapsed umbilical cord to a big-ass baby who gets stuck, or placenta previa or preeclampsia, or even just a long, drawn-out, exhausting labour: a lot can happen. Medical intervention and pain medication are good things when they do.

As for that super-helpful study you read about when you were on an airplane and sneaking your wife's magazine...can it. Casting a judgmental eye on anyone's birth experience, or birth plan, reinforces the idea that there are only one or two right ways to have a baby. In reality, there are thousands of babies born in Toronto each year, and each one of them got here in a slightly different way, using a slightly different method, under a slightly different process. Ain't none that was better than all the others, son.

Q: Are you taking maternity leave?

A: Nope, because as a newly self-employed person, I am sadly not eligible for any type of maternity leave right now. The government has a program called Employment Insurance Special Benefits for Self-Employed People that works the same way regular EI/maternity leave does; the catch is that you need to sign up for it a full year in advance of actually collecting any money. Since the geniuses at the Canadian government apparently all took their sex education in Arkansas, it seems to have slipped their attention that pregnancy lasts for all of nine months. I signed up for the program as soon as I began working for myself in April, but our kid will be at least four months old before I could collect any parental-leave benefits. It is not an ideal situation.

Q: So you're going to work with a baby at home? 

A: Save for the first month or so, which I would love to take off fully, that's the plan. So, you know, if you're feeling like you want to set up some sort of "Save Kaitlyn's Early Motherhood Sanity" fund to help offset that month of lost income, that'd be dope. Otherwise, just be gentle on me for email turnaround time.

Q: Are you scared?

A: Terrified. For the first three months, I was terrified of miscarriage. Now, I'm terrified of the actual baby that's going to come out of my actual vagina and then live with us for the next eighteen to thirty-five years (let's be real, it's not the 1970s anymore, this kid will be with us forever). I'm scared of being poor, of being a bad mother, of losing my temper. I'm scared of how this will fundamentally change my relationship with my husband, with my own parents, with my friends, and with my body. I'm scared of losing my "self," the person I worked so hard to become, in this new identify—and I'm also scared of holding myself back from fully embracing this baby, in a misguided sense of self-preservation. I'm scared of sleepless nights, of the baby licking the electrical outlets, of schoolyard bullies, of mean teenagers, of telling this kid I used to smoke cigarettes, of dropping them on stone patios, of drowning, of "where do babies come from?", of child molesters, of peanut allergies. I'm worried I'm going to alienate all my friends by having nothing else to talk about. I am worried our kid will be an asshole, or turn us into assholes. I'm worried that this baby will arrive and I will not like being a mom.

Q: Wow, that's quite a list. 

A: Yeah, like I said, the pregnancy hormones ramp everything up to overdrive. My brain is now just a swamp of emotions, and I haven't had a coherent thought in four months.

Q: So, um, are you excited?

A: You better believe it. I'm excited to meet this new person—this brand new person, who never existed before! I'm excited for story time, and for introducing them to books I read when I was a kid. I'm excited to watch my husband tuck them into bed at night. I'm excited for family outings to the zoo and the aquarium. I'm excited for all the milestones: first smile, first word, first brunch, first bike ride. I'm excited for little baby cheeks, for tiny sunhats, for bath time, for snoozing together on the couch. I'm excited for favourite blankets, for new-food faces, for living room dance parties at 6:30 PM because the kiddo goes to bed at 7. I'm excited for public tantrums at Medieval Times, for walking with them in the snow, for summer trips to Granddad and Amma's house. I'm excited to watch them grow and learn, to see new skills come up out of nowhere, to marvel at their personality quirks. I'm excited to be involved from the very start. I'm excited for a chance to fall in love. I'm excited for the chance to fall in love with M in a different way. I'm excited for their new life, and for ours.